Executives from Facebook and Google as well as other technology firms  have awarded $33 million in prizes to support research aimed at curing diseases and extending life.

The Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize is giving $3 million each to 11 winners in its first year, the foundation that administers the program said in a statement.

Going forward, five annual prizes of $3 million each will be granted.

The award was established by Genentech Inc. and Apple Inc. Chairman Art Levinson, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 23andMe Inc. Chief Executive Officer Anne Wojcicki, Mail.ru Group Ltd. co-founder Yuri Milner, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Priscilla Chan, a physician who is married to Zuckerberg.

Prizes are given to scientists pursuing research “aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life,” according to the statement.

“Our society needs more heroes that are scientists and engineers,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday at an event in San Francisco announcing the awards. “One of the things that is fundamentally different is the winners are going to pick the winners going forward.”

Recipients of the first batch of awards include professors from Princeton University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, and Harvard Medical School.

The selection process allows anyone to nominate a candidate online for consideration. There are no age restrictions and the prize can be shared between any number of scientists. Winners will be invited to present public talks.

The winners:

  • Cornelia I. Bargmann

Torsten N. Wiesel Professor and Head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior at the Rockefeller University. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

For the genetics of neural circuits and behavior, and synaptic guidepost molecules

  • David Botstein

Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and the Anthony B. Evnin Professor of Genomics at Princeton University.

For linkage mapping of Mendelian disease in humans using DNA polymorphisms.

  • Lewis C. Cantley

Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor and Director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

For the discovery of PI 3-Kinase and its role in cancer metabolism.

  • Hans Clevers

Professor of Molecular Genetics at Hubrecht Institute.

For describing the role of Wnt signaling in tissue stem cells and cancer.

  • Titia de Lange

Leon Hess Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Genetics, and Director of the Anderson Center for Cancer Research at the Rockefeller University.

For research on telomeres, illuminating how they protect chromosome ends and their role in genome instability in cancer.

  • Napoleone Ferrara

Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Senior Deputy Director for Basic Sciences at Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego.

For discoveries in the mechanisms of angiogenesis that led to therapies for cancer and eye diseases.

  • Eric S. Lander

President and Founding Director of the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Professor of Biology at MIT. Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.

For the discovery of general principles for identifying human disease genes, and enabling their application to medicine through the creation and analysis of genetic, physical and sequence maps of the human genome.

  • Charles L. Sawyers

Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

For cancer genes and targeted therapy.

  • Bert Vogelstein

Director of the Ludwig Center and Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

For cancer genomics and tumor suppressor genes.

  • Robert A. Weinberg

Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research at MIT and Director of the MIT/Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology. Member, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

For characterization of human cancer genes.

  • Shinya Yamanaka

Director of Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University. Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco.

For induced pluripotent stem cells.